Monday, July 13, 2015

Before it goes bad

Consider the life cycle of a piece of fruit, an apple perhaps.

An apple is an apple tree's way of making more trees. It starts as a bud, and the tree pours resources into the seed and the surrounding fruit. It grows larger. Eventually it drops off. If conditions are right the seed will germinate and start growing a new tree. The odds of any one seed growing to be an apple tree are trivial, yet the tree keeps on pumping out seeds.

Many animals nibble on the fruit in the process. Sometimes the fruit seed is carried by the animal a considerable distance, and is deposited in fertile ground. Or not. This is how evolution works. It keeps trying and it doesn't matter if there are a billion failures, as long as there are a billion and one attempts.

Us humans have taken advantage. We like fruit, and we pick it for us to eat. Mostly we throw away the seeds. Humans are a terribly wasteful species now.

But consider the apple from the human point of view. There is a small window where the fruit is ripe enough to eat, yet not over-ripe and going rotten. If you're going to eat it, you have to do it before it goes bad. Otherwise you've wasted the money spent on buying it.

Over the last few years we've been trying to eat better, looking for organic products, preferably from a farmer's market. We have several choices here, and happily pay a little bit extra to support local vendors and producers.

Part of the deal with fresh organic produce is that it can go off quicker than you expect, compared to buying products laced with "preservatives". Lately I've been indulging in blackberries. They're right at the top of my favourite fruit list, and the BC ones are the best. The best, end of story. Eating one brings me back to childhood, picking berries from the bushes used as cattle fences in BC, while helping relatives with the hay.

If they lasted longer, I'd ration them, and spread out the enjoyment. But they can get all fuzzy quickly, so you have to eat them before they go bad. I suppose I could buy more of them and make jam, but so far I've not been a jam making kind of guy. There are many vendors that produce wonderful blackberry jam, and I'm happy to support them by buying from them. Plus not having them much of the year makes me appreciate the season even more.

Other things can go bad too. Soft fruit is notorious. A slight bruise one hour, turns into a huge soft spot, and then  it goes rotten. I also worry about many other things going bad, such as wine, cookies, date squares, cake, and cinnamon buns. I tell myself that I'm doing us a favour by eating or drinking these things before they go off.

Take a step back. Life itself is like a fruit in some ways. It has to be consumed to be truly enjoyed. Once consumed it can't go bad. But if you just hold it, you could enjoy the scent, and how it looks, but do that long enough and you'll have a mess on your hands. Bad idea. Bite, and bite deep, though be careful of fruit with big seeds, like nectarines. Let the juice run down your chin, but don't let it drop in your keyboard.

People try to hold onto things in life, and yet all things are impermanent. Everything has a lifetime. Me, the house behind me, the garden I'm looking at, everything. Even the very rocks of the patio will eventually be broken up. We need to learn to enjoy things to the fullest while we have them, while it's good.

That's one of the reasons I like a house that looks lived in. I like to see things that have been used for their purpose. Not abused. Used as intended, slowly accumulating nicks and scratches. Books with the creased spine or scribbled notes. Records (the precursors to CD's (the precursors to MP3 files)) with scratches. Objects with the edges worn smooth. In the summer of 1980, I purchased a small inexpensive object just before moving to Calgary. Not only do I still have it, it's still in near daily use. Works perfectly. Other than a few books, I don't think there are any objects now in my life older than that.

In a sense objects are not important. Not that I'd like to, but I could lose or have every object taken from me, and I'd still be me. I could pursue getting more objects, or do without. What's important are the experiences I have with other people, my memories of times and places that aren't here anymore. Last Friday was a wonderful day of activities with friends that I'll remember for a long time, but it's in the past now. It's a memory. I need to seek out new experiences and continue to build memories. Creating new memories is one of the ways of keeping old ones fresh. You compare this occasion to that occasion. You tell the story of an old occasion during a new one, and it binds the two together.

All this is one of the reasons I'm seriously contemplating how much time I spend in the office, and what I'd be doing if I wasn't there. So far, I stay pretty busy when not working. I'd like to be busy doing something that I think is important, that might make a difference to other people. I'm pretty sure that what I'm doing for Penn West isn't going to be remembered like that. Eventually they'll say to me, "so long and thanks for all the fish." What's going to be important is what I do when I'm not in the office.

Or if you think of it another way, I've already got some soft spots. I'd like to think it's going to be a long time before they go rotten, but we don't know this. All of us know of someone who has been told to put their affairs in order, soon. I want to enjoy me while I can.


  1. Food for thought! What was the small inexpensive object you purchased that still works perfectly? Experiencing fun new things and finding the work/life balance to accommodate that is definitely a challenge. Yes, last Friday was a BLAST!

    1. You've held it in your hands several times.


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